Brian J. Allen doesn't like the unknown, especially when it comes to managing risk at Time Warner Cable, where he is chief of security. Allen, who is also on the Board of Directors of ASIS International and a member of the CSO Roundtable, shares his thoughts on leadership and why the unknown keeps him up at night, yet challenges him as well.
How did your career in security begin?
I began my career as a private investigator. I graduated with a bachelors degree in criminal justice and started working for my father's private investigation firm, which I took over for a time. I attended law school at night while running the business. After passing the bar, I practiced law for some time, but had a desire to return to the security field. I went on to work for a trade organization where I focused primarily on intellectual property and piracy issues. Just after 9-11, I was recruited by my then-client, Time Warner Cable, to start a security department. Today, we embrace enterprise security risk management (ESRM), a holistic view of security that requires security professionals to work across their organizations. We began focusing on physical security, but now assess any security vulnerability to the organization. It is both challenging and demanding.
What do you like about your position?
In my position, I have the opportunity to touch and engage every department within our business. Any asset of our organization that has value carries a security risk. From information and intellectual property to physical property and people – domestically and internationally, I consult with every department to identify security risk and develop mitigation plans. It isn’t my job to tell them what to do, but I work with the individual business owners to make certain risk is identified and either mitigated or accepted at the right level. Another important part of my job is to build awareness of security and our function. In all that I do, I work to build partnerships.
Who in your organization do you respect and take time to interact with and why?
I have great respect for our chief compliance officer and our entire legal department. Legal and security take a very similar approach to our internal business owners. We both act as consultants and work closely with departments across the enterprise to manage risk in its many forms. We also work closely to monitor regulatory issues that pose risk to our organization. The legal team’s insights greatly enhance security’s ability to protect the enterprise.
What qualities do you have that you believe make you a leader?
I believe strong communication skills coupled with patience and empathy to employees’ business goals and pressures contribute to my success as a leader. It is vital to be open and receptive to the professionals that you work with across the organization. I strive to thoughtfully engage my colleagues, listen intently and understand their requirements and needs. It is very important to keep the risk conversation ongoing. I’ve learned that the answers generally come from open dialogue…and patience. I lead most effectively when I learn how a crisis has evolved from those closest to it.
What keeps you up at night?
Not knowing risks. We can’t help protect the company nor mitigate risks if we don’t know they’re out there. We’re very often dependent on the business owners engaging us with new projects in order for us to assist them in understanding any security risks that may be associated.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I enjoy playing baseball and rugby. I also serve on the Board of Directors and volunteer at the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Connecticut.